Our Art Lessons: At Platanus, we TAB!

What is TAB?

TAB is an art education concept which allows students to take more ownership over the art making process. TAB is an acronym for Teaching for Artistic Behaviors. In a TAB classroom, students are responsible for the entirety of their artistic process, without clearly defined instructions from art teachers. From start to finish, students have the authority to make individual choices and explore their own creative interests. The teacher’s role in a TAB classroom is to act as classroom manager, environmental designer, art expert, facilitator, and student mentor.

Why has Platanus Schule chosen to use the TAB concept rather than a traditional art education concept?

Traditionally, art teachers guide the entire class through a single project. While there are some benefits to this model of art education, such as the possibility for more exposure to different artistic mediums, there is one major shortcoming. In this model, the teacher almost always decides what the artwork will be. As an artist, one of the most difficult skills to master is not how to mix colors or draw the human figure, but rather how and where to begin the process of creating a work of art. In a TAB classroom, students are constantly challenged to find their own inspiration or creative spark. Then, they must use critical thinking to figure out what materials, tools, and resources they need to carry out their design.

How are the art lessons structured in a TAB classroom?

There are a few different phases of a TAB lesson. There are instructional phases where students are exposed to different art mediums, techniques, tools, artworks or artists. There are also reflective phases where students are asked to reflect on the work they have done. This can take the form of a whole class critique or a written or spoken artist’s statement. The majority of the lesson is studio time, where students have the time to work on their self-guided projects.

What does a TAB classroom look like?

In a TAB classroom, all of the materials are made available to students. Once they have had an introduction on how to use the supplies properly as well as any safety rules that might apply for certain tools and materials, students can choose freely from particular “studios”. There are a variety of “studios” within the classroom which house different tools and materials. For example, the “drawing studio” has drawing materials such as pencils, markers, pens, crayons, and charcoal. The “fiber arts studio” has yarn, weaving looms, felt, sewing needles, and thread. In the Platanus art room, we currently have five different studios which are the drawing, collage, painting, fiber arts, 3D design, and printmaking studios.

How does TAB work during Corona times?

Obviously sharing materials in these crazy times is not possible. However, that doesn’t mean TAB isn’t possible. To ensure students’ safety, we have constructed a new system for the art lessons. Students choose one material to work with for a few weeks in their studio projects. These materials are labelled with the students’ names and are stored separately for each group (apples and bananas) within the class. Certain materials may also be used once in the art lesson and then disinfected after use. The tables in the art room are also cleaned with soap and water after each class.

We have been using the TAB method since autumn 2019 and are very pleased that the students’ interest in art and our lessons has increased enormously since then. Students who previously had little to no interest in art classes have suddenly become excited about it. Students at all grade levels are now enthusiastically working on their own designs and enjoying artistic freedom. TAB has brought a new flowering of artistic creativity to our school.

We would like to thank Ms. Brianna Hecht, Head of School, Lessons 1 and 2, and Head of the Art Department, for introducing this method and for its successful implementation.

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